Tag Archives: thank you

An Open Letter to Sarah Dessen

Note: I have wanted to write something for a long time. The words just never came. But here they are, and I hope that somehow Sarah stumbles across this and knows about this small piece of magic she’s given us.

Dear Sarah Dessen,

You know about worlds. You pull them from your attic, dust them off, and remind us that yes, they do have power.

They do make us pierce our lips and starve ourselves. They make us run an extra mile through a cornfield and submit to Friday nights bent over SAT vocabulary workbooks. They charm us at all the wrong moments and hinder us from closing our eyes at night.

They are often unkind.

Your words have challenged that meanness. They hold up protest signs at neighborhood bus stops, on high school bathroom mirrors, in front of classrooms full of peers who might as well be strangers.

Your words line up in neat rows of disorder and take back dignity lost circa 1995. Sometime before the Internet and cyberbullying really became the commentators on how to master senior high.

High school has changed since then, some say, to the point of misrecognition.

Others know better. You know better. You write those critics cryptic letters that say you know what they’re up to. You know they thought they could get away with slurred insults and drunken accusations.

You found the culprits and pinned those suckers to your word processor document. You did not supply them with a backspace key or an escape button. You made them squirm a bit.

And then you shipped them off to an agent in New York City, hoping the Manhattanites might have their “tough love” ways with them.

“Sit still, my darlings,” you said. “You are about to learn a lesson in messing with the sweet girls. The Quiet Ones. The remnants of tragedy and aftershocks of familial earthquakes.”

You promised those girls that there are often no ways of knowing where they’ll be tomorrow. But here, my darlings, are the cliff notes to rectify yesterday.

Here, you said, are the notes to the musical score you have been handed. And I know it looks like a jumbled mess and I know you just want it all spelled out and broken down but I cannot do that for you.

No one can do that for you.

So instead, you taught us about the finite forever, the anorectic struggling to love herself, the sweet boy whose life was cut short. The love we give up on and the sorrow we hold tight to. The spectrum of best friends from understanding to downright diabolical.

Yes, you introduced me to the word “diabolical” and so much more.

“Make sense of it,” you told us. “This is your story, your life, your therapy.”

And so we are left reading, piecing together fragments of our own lives for a new tomorrow.

You have given us that gift. And so we thank you, knowing it will never be enough.


Twenty one is just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world.

Someone was looking out for me when they threw the hypochondriac four rooms down from the girl for whom “personal pharmacy” was a serious understatement.

the hangover hospital

via weheartit.com

It’s no wonder I want to take the Red Cross emblem from outside the Emergicare Center next to Hardee’s and tack it above her bedroom door.

I wish I could say there’s some other image I picture when I think of her, something sweet and welcoming like a smile or a handshake, but no.

No, it’s the hospital, the rescues, the always-here-when-you-need-me-and-even-if-you-think-you-don’t moments that stick with me for four years and threaten to pull me back to reality if ever my feet lift too far off the ground.

She found us on Facebook. And no, I did not change my name to Girl With An Endless Sea of Problems. She walked right into that door, my friend.

Walked right into our open oak bedroom door, too. Inserted herself into our lives, demanding those four years of us in just four seconds.

I have never, well not since kindergarten, met someone with such boldness when it comes to making friends. Few of us are daring enough to plunge into icy water and break back through the surface, refreshed and almost comfortable already, even though we know it’s going to be OK.

Brooke did that. And I needed that sort of reckless confidence lying around. I needed someone to waltz into my life, promising to stick by me when the going got rough.

And oh, how rough it got. How many times she had to talk me down from cliffs when I was sure I was dying. Sure death was lurking just around the next corner, ready to grab me with its greedy little hands and pull a bed sheet over my head.

The only time I’ve ended up in the ER since my freshman year, she was fortunate enough to escape the phone call that came when I woke up disoriented and wondering how, when someone takes you in an ambulance, you get back home.

Do you walk? Do you crawl? Do you sit down on the cold concrete outside the waiting room drop-out pull-through overhang of that empty, brand-spanking-new parking lot and pray someone channels your inner being to find you?

No. You call your roommate and when she asks where you are, when she asks where the hospital is, you tell her the truth: All you remember is seeing a Sheetz somewhere out the back window of a moving vehicle. And then nothing. Nothing except that absolute terror when you come to and realize someone is wheeling you in on a gurney. Like you really are on the brink of dying.

I am so glad I never put her through that, so thankful because I know she will travel – has traveled – leaps and bounds to help me when I’ve fallen.

I know all about those people, the ones for whom a phone call or a text message is not enough. Oh no, she has to trudge across campus in the middle of a hot afternoon when she has no time, really, to stop what she’s doing. She has to find the girl in the middle of a breakdown, any breakdown, and calm her down.

She is the youngest, if we’re going by birth dates. Turned the big 21 yesterday.

But something tells me that 21 is just another number, just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world. And she’s conquered it already, moved on to something more urgent.

The Real Story: The Ones Who Wrote My Heart & Staplegunned It to Their Sleeves

I want to get down on hands and knees and thank God for the year that he’s given me. It’s been magical.

via weheartit.com

On August 15, 2010, I switched to WordPress. And so began Rewriting Life, an experiment in vignettes of my life and a chance to tell the world that slowing a moment down to it’s smallest fractions of a second can sometimes tell you more than a lifetime of mediocre moments ever will.

That’s what I learned this year.

That words change hearts and open minds and play tricks with your mind. That slow songs in a rain-soaked car with the ambulance rushing by on your right side sometimes brings you back to New Year’s Eve four years ago, when you best friend called to tell you she couldn’t get out of her car.

That crouching beneath a basement bar in the dark, huddled next to a metal stool, will always cause your breath to grow ragged.

That driving alone through the forests of North Carolina in the early morning hours will always liberate your soul.

That you are never too old for a makeover from your little sister.

That’s what this year, this blog, taught me.

But the real story is that I found myself through other people, the ones who wrote my heart and staple gunned it to their sleeves. And those are the ones I want to thank.

To Emily, the girl who works full-time and plays full-time and someday will win the world over as the next Rachel McAdams—America’s Future Sweetheart. You are my rock, my best friend since middle school, and my first fan.

To Kate, the girl who let the rest of us reduce her to a blonde stereotype when she’s always been so much more—a marketing expert, your future wedding planner, and lover of all things pink. You are one of my biggest fans and a fiercely loyal friend.

To my mother, who reads every single post, even the ones I want to delete because they’re awful. You are the only one who listens to all my absurd thoughts and idiotic questions in the middle of the day when I call in transit to class or the Breeze office.

To Heather, whose messages about my posts always break my heart but demand that I keep writing for the rest of the girls just like her who are fragile and wandering through life, searching for a guidebook. You are not alone.

To Lauren, who made my day one Wednesday in the middle of February when she DM’d me on Twitter and asked to be my friend. You are stronger than so many women in this world and every time you compliment my writing, I am forever amazed.

To Hannah, whose blog saved me from the worst version of myself in my 21 years and who wins the award for being the easiest to talk to on the phone for an hour without realizing that much time has passed. Your words are like poetry and your heart is always always in the right place. I’m buying your book the day it comes out.

And to J, who might be the coolest 40-something I’ve ever met and whose blog always keeps me thinking about the Big Ideas and Small Moments. You are never without an insightful or inspiring thought for me to consider. Thank you.

I only hope I stumble upon a hundred more people just like them who have my shaking my head in amazement and gratitude. These women are beautiful, loving, and just downright awesome.

Here’s to another year of loving, learning and writing.

Things My Father Taught Me: Self-Sacrifice

my sister's grad party

When I think of my father, it’s always a series of images. On his cell phone driving home from Boston. Bending down for a bear hug from my sister and I, both of us in oversized t-shirts and bare feet. Head ducked over a cookbook at the kitchen counter. Busy hands on a cutting board.

He’s like a Polaroid: the meaning develops slowly but surely until, at the end, it seems like it should’ve been obvious all along.

Ten years before I was born, someone took a snapshot of him. What they saw, I can only imagine. From what I’m told, he was a man riding the train each day at South Amboy to commute to school and work. Just a few crumpled bills in his pocket.

Back then, maybe he was already imagining a family. Maybe he was already gearing up to provide for two little girls and the woman he fell in love with in tenth grade.

I used to tell the kids with divorced parents that they didn’t understand. Semantics didn’t matter; they saw their fathers more than me.

He spent Monday through Friday at an apartment in Connecticut every week for years. We visited once. It didn’t feel much like home.

There was a full bed and you could literally do your laundry and wash dishes in the same room. He had a mini world up there, but it wasn’t home. Everything was the same shade of tan, like God had dumped a bucket of sand on top of it and hadn’t bothered to clean up the mess.

And yet it was spotless. Not even lived in, really. At the time, I’d expected there to be more. More decorations. More colors. More life. I think I was relieved there wasn’t, that he didn’t have this whole new life waiting for him.

That’s the first time I understood: this apartment, it wasn’t important. It was like a holding tank for the man who had to work four hours from home to support his family. He didn’t live there because he wanted to; he did it because he had to.

When Connecticut became Boston, and four hours became six, he started living in a hotel. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine him sitting at the empty bar on a Tuesday night, watching a post-season MLB game and nursing a glass bowl of mixed nuts. He told us he became friends with the bartender and the concierge and I wondered what it must feel like to befriend hotel staff; to make a life inside a place others were always passing through on the route to somewhere better.

Lots of fathers commute. Of that, I am sure. But there is a world of difference between the hour-long commute and the six-hour commute.

I wouldn’t say my dad is a man of few words; he certainly speaks his mind when necessary. But even without saying it, I know what kept him pushing through the fatigue at 3 a.m. on a desolate highway every Monday morning for years:

His three girls, sleeping in their beds at home as he backed quietly down the driveway and sped toward to main road.

I cannot be sure if the tenth grader knew he’d do that. He almost certainly didn’t. But he fell in love and never looked back. He took a simple task, one that many people find a way to fail—providing for a family—and dedicated his life to it.

I can only hope to someday have the same strength.

Note: John Mackey, Chairman and CEO of Whole Foods, shared a similar feeling today on LifeByMe.com. He believes that everything he does should be rooted in love–consciously or otherwise.